Nutmeg, truffle, mahogany, ebony, and cocoa. These are just a few colors in Tameeka Blunte's stockpile of yarn that she uses to make dolls.
"I have over 20 shades of yarn. Whenever I find a brown shade of yarn, it can be dark or light, I buy it. At one point in time, there weren't [too many] brown yarns to use. I have more choices now. I have more options."
Blunte kicked off crocheting custom baby dolls in 2014 with her business Tammy B Creations. The dolls have evolved over the last eight years from being small to having 18 to 21-inch frames. They are dressable and sometimes even made into yarn versions of their owners.
"I create dolls that look like me, that look like my kids, that look like my family, that look like my friends," Blunte said. "It can be anyone, but I do focus on dolls of color. I make these dolls to represent us, and my main thing in making dolls is I make them to look like [their owners] in a doll miniature version."
Crocheting is a family tradition passed down from generation to generation in her Caribbean upbringing.
"I'm from Trinidad. We learn to sew. We learn to crochet and cross-stitch," said Blunte. This is sometimes learned in schools. If you didn't learn in school, your aunt, grandma, mom, or someone you know would teach you how to do these things. I learned from a pretty young age how to do basic stuff."
As with family tradition, when she was about 8 years old, Blunte's aunt would sit her down with a book, crochet hook, and yarn.
"She [gave] me a hook, she [gave] me the yarn, and she [gave] me a book and [said] go learn. Go figure it out. You practice, and you learn. That's how I learned to crochet," she said."
Blunte started making doilies and eventually began crocheting hats and other "simple" items. She said as a little girl, she was always fascinated with dolls and she would remake some of them to be a better representation of herself. She eventually decided to add her love of dolls to her craft as a way to address the lack of representation of Black doll designers and Black dolls in the toy industry.
"There weren't many brown dolls when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s," she said. "I thought, let me get back to what I used to do when I was younger."
She makes various hairstyles, including braided styles, locs, and even relaxed looks and afros to adorn the dolls' heads. Blunte also worked on her sewing skills to make outfits for the dolls.
"I found that it was quicker for me to sew the clothes than it was to crochet them," she said. Each doll can take up to six weeks to finish. On average, she can make anywhere from 30 to 50 dolls a year.
"I hand crochet each and every doll. It is very time-consuming. I might be able to finish a doll in about five days without any breaks. But I am also a mother and a wife. So, I can't just sit straight and work on a doll."
Blunte says she wants to expand her business in the future, including bringing on other crocheters and possibly having a storefront.
"I want to expand, and I want to teach people," she said. "I share patterns with others, and I don't mind teaching. I want to do more than just dolls. I want to incorporate things for little girls that are unique and original. I want to build off my brand. The storefront is a dream."
Her most memorable doll
When Blunte saw Michelle Obama during the 2021 Inauguration Day for the swearing-in of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, she was in awe.
Obama wore a burgundy pantsuit that caught the audience's attention, and her look seemed nearly flawless.
"I literally stopped every order I was making, and I made her in two days," Blunte said. "I was so obsessed with her look. I put her on the internet, and people went crazy. They were in love with her. She was gone the next day, which I'm grateful for. She was one of my most memorable ones."
She's not alone
Finding Black dolls isn't nearly as difficult as it was when Blunte was growing up. Now some of the biggest toy manufacturers are making sure Black girls are represented on store shelves. But like Blunte, some creators are also making sure that there are also Black dolls designed by Black designers. Below are some Black-owned doll brands.
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